The Healthy Honeybee

Learning about Beekeeping

onions and honey

While I’m on the topic of this family, I have to thank Michelle for the winter onions (sometimes called egyptian onions) she gave me the last time we were there. I cooked some up with brown rice and finely diced veg, and a smidge of honey thrown in for good measure – since I was just back from the beeyard and thinking about it. Very tasty. The rest of the onions are planted in my garden – hopefully they’ll get a good start on growing before winter!

Anybody want the recipe? No? Too bad, I’m posting it anyway. There’s the small version and the big version, go with whatever suits.

Confetti Rice

1 cup dry brown rice

Step 1: Cook the rice. I put it in a casserole dish with 2 c water and put a lid on, then put the whole thing in the oven at 375 for an hour. Done. No fussing. Of course a rice cooker would probably work too, but I have too many appliances already, with more on the way. Generally I like to do this step in the morning when I have lots of energy, and put the rice in the fridge. Then at suppertime it goes faster, putting it all together.

1/2 -1 medium zucchinis
1-2 medium carrots
1/2 -1 red pepper
a bit of onion, to your taste
about a tsp-tbsp of honey or so – again, to your taste
salt and pepper

1/2 or all of the rice

Step 2: Get out a pan and put it on a burner on med-high. Watch it during the next step, and add some olive oil when it gets warm.
Step 3: Dice the veggies very finely. If you have or know kids, you know what I’m talking about here.
Step 4: When the olive oil is warm in the pan, thrown in the veg with about a tsp of honey. Give them a few shakes and stirs. Add salt and pepper if you like them.
Step 5: If the rice is in the fridge, throw it in now. If it’s still warm from cooking, you can wait until the veg are cooked a bit more, then add it.
Step 6: Stir often, eat it when it’s done.

We ate ours with meatballs that I made awhile back, defrosted and reheated in the microwave. Yum!

Thanks again Michelle!

grass killer

Thanks to my wonderful sister for carpet!

It’s a good way to keep the thigh-high grass from crowding the hives. Yet another trick I learned from Ken. There’s so much value in learning from someone who has many years of experience! I’m very grateful to have accidentally stumbled upon this family during my research days. I’ve learned something from each member. Even Jill, who gives good (usually) directions.

screening visitors

Here is a pic of my screen bottom board. Normally it’s under the brood chamber and I only see the front entrance part of it, but it’s on display here because we were cleaning the bottom board. (And by ‘we’ I mean Ken.) The screen bottom board is there to enhance the health of the hive. Mainly as protection against varroa mite, which can be incredibly damaging to a colony of bees. The screen mesh is wide enough to allow the varroa mite to fall through, but narrow enough to keep the bees away from them. Varroa mites will wait there on the bottom board for a bee to come along and grab onto it, but it won’t try to climb back up the sides through the holes.

I don’t think I have any problem with varroa yet. I didn’t see any on the bottom board. Keep your fingers crossed….

new supplies

Here’s my little beekeeper smoking the bees, in her new hat and veil! I finally went and got the kids hats and veils of their own, and they enjoyed having them the last time we visited the beeyard. Especially this one. She wanted to do everything and see everything. So, she used the smoker until someone mentioned that she should stop, and she was right in there underneath me so she could see all the action. The smoker had to go, though – smoke rises, right? Yep. And she was right under me… I couldn’t see or breathe for a few minutes, until someone set it somewhere else.

I love watching my kids with the bees. I thought they wouldn’t want anything to do with them, but they’ve been right in there with me, enjoying themselves and learning along with me.

ouchie 2

The penny comes in handy again. Kid #2 ended up with a bee sting this time.

This eases my mind, having both of them stung now. I’ve heard that beekeepers’ children and spouses tend to develop allergies to bee stings, due to being in contact with low levels of venom that would come off clothing worn by beekeepers. Being stung is the best way to ensure that they’re getting higher levels of venom and allowing their bodies to develop resistance without developing an allergy.

So: two down, one to go. Hubby still needs to come see the bees and get himself stung.

reno 2

The bees were ready for a second brood chamber when we checked on Thursday, so here they are! Should make my next inspection more interesting, since I haven’t done an inspection on a double yet. I originally thought I would use only one brood chamber, because it sounded like it would be easier for me. However, after talking with Ken and other beekeepers, I’ve come to realize that double is probably better for the bees. If they have more room to raise brood, they’ll be a stronger colony. If they have more room to store honey for themselves, they’ll last the winter without me having to feed them (hopefully). It’s my intention to keep the bees as naturally as possible. No harsh chemicals or antibiotics or sugar feeding. However, if it looks like they won’t have enough honey to last the winter, even without me harvesting any, I may have to feed them. If it’s between feeding them sugar and them dying…. well, it’s not a hard decision.

expert help

A big thanks to Ken and Steve for coming out to my beeyard yesterday! Here you see Ken scraping the junk off a bottom board – something I hadn’t thought to do since getting my bees.

Here’s what came off them:

You can see different kinds of pollen – the different colour pollen comes from different flowers – and other random junk that fell to the bottom of the hive. This kind of thing attracts Wax Moth and other nuisances, so it’s a good idea to scrape it off every once in awhile. When you remember. Or when someone else remembers for you.


I’m pretty sure one or both of my hives will need a second brood box soon, which means I need to get them ready! This is the first coat of paint for these boxes. The reddish colour is my old hallway colour, and the blue is even older – it’s from our newlywed apartment. 9 years today (happy anniversary dear!), so it’s been around for awhile.

Anyway, back to bees: this time I’m going to paint two coats of paint without primer underneath. My first boxes were done with primer and paint, but I’ve recently read that it works better if you don’t use primer. Who knows? I say why not give it a try, so here we are. I’ll have to remember to report back in a few years about how well the paint is holding up compared with the other boxes.

bees with balls

It looks like my queens have decided to grow some drones. See the capped cells that bulge out? Those will be male bees. The queen makes the decision to lay a male or female, usually based on the diameter of the cell. Once she’s made her decision, she makes it happen by either fertilizing the egg for a female bee, or leaving the egg unfertilized for a male bee. She can do this because she has a special sac inside her for storing the sperm. For each egg laid, she first measures the cell with her antennae, then turns around and backs up into the cell to lay the egg at the very bottom. Drone larvae are bigger than worker larvae, so the workers extend the comb around them to cap them in at the appropriate time.

When a drone is ready to come out, he will make a sort of buzzing noise inside the cell, and one of his sisters will come and rescue him. The males are unable to chew their way out, so the female workers come and chew the cap off. Then the drones are free to run and play while the females clean up the mess.

Yes, the females do all the work. Drones don’t really do much other than mate with a virgin queen. But come fall, when the female workers are getting ready to shut everything down for the winter, they will kick their brothers out of the home and let them die out in the freezing cold.

look out world

Here she comes! Can you see the worker bee chewing her way out of the cell that she pupated in? Right near the middle of the picture. This is her first job as a fully developed bee. She is 21 days old, and full grown. She started as an egg, fertilized and laid by the queen in the cell. She developed for about 3 days in the egg before she hatched and other workers started feeding her. She is now a larva – looks like a little white grub – and very hungry. She eats until she’s fully grown, about 6 days, then the workers seal the cell with wax. She continues to grow and turns into a pupa around 12 days old. From then on, she’s turning into an adult bee. At 21 days, she’s ready to chew her way out.